What’s Your Name, What’s Your Sign: Why I Can’t Stand Astrology and Those Who Swear By It
So, you’re in the middle of a conversation with someone new and interesting. The conversation is going well and you’re both getting more and more comfortable sharing your lives’ most elucidating tidbits. You’re winding down one particularly enlightening story and looking to them to see if they appreciate the insight into your life you’ve just anecdotally given them when with a deep and abiding seriousness they say: “Hmmmm… What’s Your Sign?” This, for me, is one of the most disappointing responses anyone can ever give. When it’s happened to me I’ll usually respond with a certain measure of confusion.
Wondering whether or not I’ve somehow misjudged this person, I’ll say, “Uh, I think I’m a Cancer … my birthday is July 21st.” Then the conversation goes south. They’ll usually proceed to talk about how everything that’d been said previously makes more sense now that they know I’m a Cancer, and how even if I hadn’t told them if they had to guess, they probably would have guessed that I am a Cancer. Those of you reading this right now, who are really into astrology, are probably thinking that everything I’m saying is very much something a Cancer would say. Whatever homey.
Now, let me say, it’s not that I have some particular aversion to astrology. I think astrology is cool and fun the same way fortune cookies and going to get your palm read are cool and fun. I think most people have a general level of appreciation for astrology. Most of us know our signs and most of us have a general idea of the characteristics associated with our signs. Some people take it way too far though. The first sign that someone may have a bit of an unhealthy relationship with astrology is when they know the start and end date for, not only their sign but for every sign there is. That sort of knowledge sits right on the cusp of excessiveness.
Knowing the start and end dates is one thing, but knowing the start and end dates, and knowing all of the subsequent characteristics of each sign is a sure sign that you probably take astrology way too seriously.
The History of Astrology
Before I go into why folks reading too much into astrological signs annoy me, I want to talk a little bit about their history. Astrology as we know it is based on the zodiac. The zodiac is a series of constellations that are viewable in the night’s sky along the thin band of space our sun appears to pass through as it revolves around the Earth (I know, the Sun doesn’t revolve around the Earth – just stay with me). That path is called the ecliptic.
To make it more simple, imagine our sun as one of those highlighting markers that we all used as a study tool in college. As it appears to travel across our sky throughout the year, imagine the sun highlighted the path that it traveled on. In the night time, if you could still view that highlighted path, the constellations of stars that would rest in that path are what make up the zodiac. In order, those constellations are Ares, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius, and Pisces.
There is no concrete, definitive answer on when humans first began grouping stars into constellations and then using earthly allusions to describe those constellations. Some say it was the Ancient Greeks (because of course, ancient Greeks created like everything – supposedly). Some say it predates Ancient Greece and goes all the way back to Babylon where Babylonian astronomers divided the constellations in the ecliptic into 12 equal parts to help determine the seasons. Regardless of where it began, the idea of associating particular personal character traits to individuals born during particular months was most definitely born in Ancient Greece. Greeks followed what is now called a macrocosm/microcosm view of the universe. They believed that certain truths were held on all levels of human perception, all levels of the cosmos. As it is above – so it is below.
But there are a few problems with associating this kind of power to the zodiac. First and foremost, the zodiac is based on a geocentric view of the relationship of the earth to the universe. In a geocentric view, the Earth is at the center of the universe and the sun, moon and all of the stars in the sky all revolve around us. We thought this was the case a few thousand years ago, we now know it’s not. The sun doesn’t revolve around us, we revolve around it. Also, in theory – if the Ancient Greek macrocosm/microcosm ideology holds true then each constellation represented by a particular Zodiac sign should take up a physical distance equivalent to about 30 days of time distance. In real life, that’s not the case. If the physical size of the constellations directly correlated to Earth time (as it should), then based on the size of its associated constellation, Sagittarius would make up something like 4 or 5 months.
Lastly, and most importantly, we know there shouldn’t be any real personality associations with the Zodiac because … brace yourself … the constellations themselves are completely made up! Basically, some ancient Babylonian farmer looked up in the sky and decided to play connect the dots. He saw some stars bunched together and started relating them to things he encountered in his everyday life like lions and crabs and bulls and rams. That’s really all it is. If we were to do the same thing today our signs would be based on the Apple logo, the Nike swoosh and Alberto Korda’s portrait of Che Guevera. Folks born under the Apple logo would be “Jobs,” under Jordan would be “Jumpmen” and under Guevera would be “Guerrilleros.”
And in terms of personality traits, Jobs’ would be techies, Jumpmen would be athletic and Guerrilleros would be anti-authority revolutionary types. People would swear these traits held up. My point is, it’s all completely and utterly arbitrary. (Gon’ head and continue to the next page to learn why I can’t stand Zodiac Enthusiasts…)
And that is what annoys me most about zodiac signs – that something so thoroughly arbitrary can dictate and influence so much of people’s lives. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard someone mention their inherent incompatibility with people born of a particular zodiac sign. Inherent incompatibility!? I mean, some dudes won’t even talk to Capricorns and some women won’t give a Gemini the time of day (all Gemini’s lie). If you exclude potential love interests because of their zodiac sign and then end up spending the rest of your life alone as the “old man in the club” or “cat lady,” you know what, I won’t feel sorry for you.
Back to the example I used to kick this post off: asking someone their sign as a means of garnering a better understanding of why that person is the way they are, after they’ve just shared something with you that was aimed at helping you understand why they are the way they are, makes you look pretty silly in my book. At the bare minimum, you’re losing cool points. For those of you who feel the same way I do about this, the next time you share a story with a friend and they ask you your sign, lie to them.
Tell them you’re anything other than your true sign. After they explain to you why you being an (insert random sign) makes total sense, tell them you were kidding, then tell them your real sign. The awkward silence that ensues will be the perfect means of subtly disengaging from that conversation.
The Fun Behind your Zodiac
Like I said, I’m not totally Anti-Zodiac (ok, maybe I am). I can at least appreciate the humor and fun in seeing how closely people match up with their sign or what a zodiac sign says about us. Even I appreciate a little intra-zodiac rivalry. I think most people are like me in that regard. But there definitely seem to be a pretty significant number of people out there who really … really … believe in the zodiac in an almost religious sort of way. If you’re one of those people, please comment. Enlighten me. Put me on. I just don’t get it.
Stay Low and Keep Firing… If you like partying, then this post on “What Type of Partier You Are” will definitely interest you!
p.s. Shout out to all my Cancers! #TeamCancer #CancerSeason